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3/24/17

Air Travel: US electronics ban for Middle East flights draws doubts

Aviation experts are divided on the effectiveness of a US ban on large electronic items in hand luggage on flights inbound from a number of Middle Eastern states.

The US Department of Homeland Security announced the measure on Tuesday, citing the downing of an airliner in Egypt in 2015 and an attempt on a Somali passenger jet in 2016 using explosives smuggled on board.

A list of banned devices includes tablets, laptops, e-book readers and cameras, but not medical equipment and mobile phones.

The indefinite ban targets 10 airports in the Middle East and nine airlines, including Turkish Airlines and the major Gulf carriers: Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.

"We have reason to be concerned about attempts by terrorist groups to circumvent aviation security and terrorist groups continue to target aviation interests," US officials said in a statement.

However, aviation experts have cast doubt on that explanation and warned of the new dangers the measure could pose.

Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at the aviation consultancy StrategicAero Research, told Al Jazeera the announcement "flies in the face" of US Federal Aviation Authority rules on the carrying of lithium batteries in a plane's cargo hold.

"[The rule] was put in place after the 2010 crash of a UPS 747 freighter in Dubai that caught fire while carrying such cargo," he said, before describing the immediate inconvenience the ban would cause for passengers.

"Airlines will of course comply, but delays will be seen at airports for customers not aware of the rule changes.

"Compliance will cause delays and add costs - it might even force passengers to drop plans to fly to the US or instead look for an alternative transit point through Europe so that their devices can be taken in the cabin as normal."

Read more: US electronics ban for Middle East flights draws doubts | News | Al Jazee


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